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Making and Marketing Online With Canva

Canva Basics with Preston Cox

Whether you are making as a side hustle or as a full-time business, marketing your products effectively online is key to your business success. Over the past seven years, I have been using Canva daily as a marketing tool for businesses and organizations of all sizes. If you are new to the platform, Canva is a versatile graphic design platform that has become a valuable asset for those of us who own small businesses or are solopreneurs in the online maker space looking to elevate our digital marketing game. With its user-friendly interface and array of features, Canva offers a wide variety of tools that makers can leverage to showcase their products in a visually appealing way

“Canva is a lot like LEGO blocks”

I like to describe Canva as building with LEGO blocks. LEGO may be a simple block toy, but with a little imagination and some knowledge, that simple rectangle can be turned into just about anything the mind can conceive. Canva is a lot like that. It is limited compared to other professional design softwares like Photoshop or Illustrator, but Canva gives you a box of tools - LEGO blocks if you will - and says “Let’s see what you can build!” With a little know-how and practice, those simple tools can create eye-catching, branded marketing content for your online business that will help you stand out amongst the crowd, even with limited design experience. 

Canva offers a free and paid option for using the platform. For only $120 per year (at the time of this blog), the paid option is well worth the investment, in my opinion. With the paid option, the upgraded features, the library of stock photos and graphics, and ready-built templates available, it’s a hard deal to beat. That being said, you can certainly use the free option as a beginner with a few creative workarounds, but that is for another blog! 

The Canva Dashboard

When you open Canva, the first thing you’ll see is what I call the Dashboard. The first thing you want to explore as a novice Canva user is “Templates.”

There is pretty much every type of design you would ever want from social media posts to t-shirts, to websites, to business cards, and beyond. I have made banners, invoices, videos, website images, wall decor - you name it - you can probably design it in Canva. You just search by size or description and Canva will give you a fully editable template! 

Next on your Dashboard is your “Your Projects” library.

The place where all your projects are stored. Your library is searchable so long as you have named them well, or the designs contain the keywords you are searching. My suggestion - start the habit early of naming your designs and uploads so that you can easily find them in the future. 

And finally, “Create a Design” which can be a template size, such as an “Instagram Post - Square”, or set a custom size for your work area. I tend to stick to the suggested sizes unless I am designing something specific! 

Your Editing Tool Kit

Once you create your project file, you can start the design process with a large variety of tools!

Within the Canva workspace, you’ll see some icons on the left sidebar. “Templates” are specific designs that perfectly (or almost perfectly) fit the design size you are working with. It’s a great place to start if you need ideas. Just remember creative, targeted searches work better than generic ones. Under that is “Elements.” With a pro account, you will have access to thousands of photos, clip art images, videos, audio files, frames, and more. All of these elements can be used in your designs, as your Pro account covers your usage license. Skipping down to “Uploads” - this is where you can import your own graphics and photo files. Canva’s drag+drop features make this a super easy process. You can also simply use the “Upload” button.

If you have any experience with a Word doc editor, then you already understand how to edit text. Besides the simple text editing features, some unique text editing features can be found under the “Effects” tool kit, like shadows, lifts, outlines, etc...These features come in especially handy when creating engaging and visually pleasing content.

Likewise, photo editing is equally simple. Under the “Edit Photo” options, you will find a slider editing system much like you would find on a basic photo editing software or your phone. There are also auto-filters, similar to those on social media platforms. Additional features include blur, shadows, auto-focus, and transparency. Within the photo editing tool kit, there are also a few specialty tools such as Background Remover and AI editing tools like Magic Erase, Magic Expand, and Magic Edit. These are a little tricky to use at times and tend to be a bit glitchy, but with practice can become a useful tool in your content creation. 

Getting Started with Design in Canva

So now that you have your toolkit, it’s time to build some designs. Again, templates are a great place to start and get some practice. Another great exercise is finding social content you find engaging and trying to recreate it using the tools at your disposal with Canva. Just like in making, once you start getting an eye for design, you will learn to recognize that most designs are simply an arrangement of shapes, forms, shadows, spacing, lines, etc, and will figure out how to recreate them for your brands or products. 

There are several very helpful resources for Canva design online. You would benefit from subscribing to their content for inspiration. In the meantime, here are a few tips for you as you begin your Canva design journey: 

  • Practice, practice, practice. Like in making, you are going to create a lot of bad designs before you make good ones. It’s all part of the learning process. 

  • The best, most engaging designs are simple. Just because you have every tool at your disposal, doesn’t mean you have to use them. Don’t overdo your designs with too much text, graphics, designs, colors, or font choices. 

  • Readability is key in design. This means you should always pay attention to your font sizes, styles, and spacing. If your content consumers can’t read the text, you aren’t selling to them. 

  • Learning simple branding techniques, such as adding your logo to designs, is a great way to elevate your content. 

Overall, Canva is a valuable marketing tool that empowers makers to create stunning visual content to promote their products. By utilizing its features such as templates, photo editing, and collaboration tools, makers can effectively showcase their creations and attract a wider audience to their craft.

Preston has provided us with some additional resources like Canva shortcut keys and some awesome Canva tutorial videos. He is giving away his Top Tips and Tricks PDF with those links here. Click the PDF below to download.

Preton Cox - Canva Design Resources
Download PDF • 562KB

Hope this helps to get you started with using Canva as a tool to help you grow your business! If it does, we would love for you to give us feedback right here on this blog or share with us what you made through social media and give us (@themakercollab) or Preston (@277creative) a tag so we can see what you have come up with. Cheers!


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